You train for months leading up to a marathon. You learn as much as you can to help ensure you will cross the finish line. But what should you do after the marathon or a long training run to help achieve a healthy recovery?
Food and beverages
- As soon as you feel like you can drink something, drink water. This should be done immediately after your run. As soon as you can, progress to a sports drink, fruit juice, soda or any other source of simple sugar-type carbohydrate beverage. Skim or 1 percent chocolate milk is also a good recovery beverage because it has sugar and protein.
- Begin eating when you feel like you can handle it. Typically, this will be between 5 to 10 minutes after your run. Start with easily digested high-carbohydrate food, such as bananas, pretzels, yogurt and energy bars.
- Drink and eat slowly to avoid throwing up.
- Try to keep walking for up to 15 minutes after completing the run. When you rest, elevate your feet higher than the level of your heart. If you have to sit for a long period of time, make sure you get up and walk around for a few minutes to help limit muscle stiffness.
- Begin stretching the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, IT bands, glutes and low back right away with long, gentle stretches.
- For sore muscles or joints, apply ice or cold packs three to four times per day for 15 minutes for the first two days after your long run or marathon.
- Avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve) until you are rehydrated because these products may be harmful to the kidneys when you are dehydrated from prolonged exercise.
- Cryotherapy, NormaTec and Hyperbaric chambers help speed recovery.
- When you shower, choose lukewarm or cool water. Avoid hot showers for at least one day to allow your body to fully rehydrate. Being dehydrated in a hot shower can cause you to get dizzy and pass out.
- Avoid hot tubs until your body is fully recovered because they will worsen swelling and inflammation in the muscles and joints.
Scrapes, chafe and open blisters
- If you have open scrapes, chafes or blisters, wash the area(s) twice daily with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment and cover with a band-aid for a few days.
- For blisters that have not opened, leave them as is or cover with a band-aid.